Salman Rushdie on Song

Libby Lavella performing at Categorically Not! June 8th 2008The artist and musician Libby Lavella, in her presentation about ambiguity in art and music on Sunday night at the Santa Monica Art Studios (in the Categorically Not! series – see my description here), ended by reading a lovely extract from some writing of Salman Rushdie. It really resonated with me, and so I thought it would share it with you. I found out from her where it was from. It’s from his novel “The Ground Beneath Her Feet”. You can see a longer extract in January Magazine here, but I’ll place here the part that she read:

Why do we care about singers? Wherein lies the power of songs? Maybe it derives from the sheer strangeness of there being singing in the world. The note, the scale, the chord; melodies, harmonies, arrangements; symphonies, ragas, Chinese operas, jazz, the blues: that such things should exist, that we should have discovered the magical intervals and distances that yield the poor cluster of notes, all within the span of a human hand, from which we can build our cathedrals of sound, is as alchemical a mystery as mathematics, or wine, or love. Maybe the birds taught us. Maybe not. Maybe we are just creatures in search of exaltation. We don’t have much of it. Our lives are not what we deserve; they are, let us agree, in many painful ways deficient. Song turns them into something else. Song shows us a world that is worthy of our yearning, it shows us our selves as they might be, if we were worthy of the world.

Copyright © 1999 Salman Rushdie


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3 Responses to Salman Rushdie on Song

  1. Mary Cole says:

    What a wonderful piece of writing!

  2. Carl Brannen says:

    Rushdie’s “The Ground Beneath Her Feet” was the best novel I’ve read this decade. I should review it. I pick up stuff like this to read while travelling.

  3. Christine says:

    Our lives are not what we deserve; they are, let us agree, in many painful ways deficient.